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Michigan’s Medicaid work rules, set to begin in January 2020, are under attack as four enrollees filed a class-action lawsuit claiming the requirement violates the intent of the federal Medicaid Act of 1965, among other charges.

The National Health Law Program, the Michigan Poverty Law Program, and the Center for Civil Justice filed the suit on November 22 in federal district court in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the enrollees, naming U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma as defendants.

Lawsuits have stalled implementation of Medicaid work rules in eight other states, most recently in Indiana. A federal judge struck down rules in Arkansas and Kentucky, but the cases are on appeal.

Michigan’s rules require anyone aged 19 to 62 who is enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan to document 80 hours a month of work, job training, substance abuse treatment, volunteering, or job-seeking. There are 12 exemptions to the requirement, such as physical or mental disability and being a caregiver.

CMS has not commented on the lawsuits challenging the work rules.

In a January 29, 2019 op-ed in RealClear Health on the 17,000 Medicaid recipients in Arkansas who lost coverage because of failure to comply with work rules, health care policy analysts Grace-Marie Turner and Doug Badger write it may be as simple as “they didn’t consider the benefits worth it.” Of those who lost coverage, “all were eligible to reenroll on January 1 to try again. Fewer than 1,000 did,” Turner and Badger wrote.

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has publicly opposed the work rule, enacted by Republican lawmakers before she was sworn into office, but she does not have the authority to repeal or suspend it.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) introduced the work rule legislation in 2018, suggesting the governor will get little cooperation from the legislature on her proposed delay in implementation (see related article, this page).

—Staff reports

Official Connections:

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering): http://gophouse.org/representatives/northernmi/chatfield/

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake): https://www.senatormikeshirkey.com